No immediate NYCHA shake-up expected as monitor gets to work

As of March 2, NYCHA said it has inspected 2,854 units with children under 6 for lead hazards. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Kathryn Garcia said she did not expect imminent changes to staff or contracts in new organizational plan.

As of March 2, NYCHA said it has inspected 2,854 units with children under 6 for lead hazards.
As of March 2, NYCHA said it has inspected 2,854 units with children under 6 for lead hazards.

Interim NYCHA Chair Kathryn Garcia told the City Council Monday that after speaking with Bart Schwartz, a monitor appointed to oversee the authority, she did not expect a forthcoming organizational plan to immediately shake up specific positions or contracts at NYCHA.

Garcia said the blueprint would focus more on broader policies while testifying before the Council’s Committee on Public Housing,

"I don’t think his first thought is: We need to throw everything out. He’s getting to know the organization … The organizational plan is really about: is the organization really set up to deliver on all of this?" Garcia said of Schwartz.

"It’s not specifically designed for: Oh, do we need to get rid of a specific person or not? … The organizational plan is not really designed to change the contracts."

The monitor is part of a settlement agreement the city reached on January 31 with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and federal prosecutors, who filed a lawsuit against NYCHA in June accusing it of misleading HUD about the extent of lead and other unsafe conditions in its portfolio. 

Under the settlement, the city maintains control of NYCHA, but is supervised by Schwartz, who was appointed March 1. The federal government and city must mutually develop a list of candidates for the next chair/CEO of NYCHA, from which the city may ultimately pick the leader, according to Garcia. 

The agreement requires the monitor and city to tap an outside management consultant to review NYCHA’s setup and develop the foundation for a new organizational plan. Eventually, NYCHA must add an Environmental Health and Safety Department, a Compliance Department and a Quality Assurance Unit, according to the agreement.

Garcia said NYCHA has made progress on addressing lead hazards in all apartments with children under 6, as it was required to do within 30 days of signing the settlement.

As of March 2, NYCHA has inspected 2,854 apartments that have children under 6-years-old and corrected "identified deficiencies" related to lead in 2,122 of those units, Garcia said.

Staff were not allowed in when they attempted to inspect 171 apartments and eliminate lead hazards in 344 units, Gracia said. 

NYCHA could not immediately clarify when asked if there were additional units with children under 6 that had not yet been inspected.

Garcia said the $2.2 billion in capital funding the city has budgeted for NYCHA is not enough to properly remedy issues across its portfolio and called on Albany and Washington, D.C., to provide more funding to the authority.

"We do still need to make sure we advocate for additional federal and state resources," Garcia said.

Ivan Pereira